Monday 24 January 2022

Hodnet Axes: Archaeology "Saved"?


Once again, the total failure of the public communication by archaeology of what it's all about leads to more nonsensical arguments. Since the PAS and the FLOs are so noticeably absent, David Knell joined the social media discussion on the side of the archaeologists. He got an insulting reply from the metal detectorist:

luckyorange@luckyorange1812 20 min
Not trashing it Damon, saving it, you are blind to the obvious.
Uh-oh. That's what happens when you leave archaeological outreach largely to a "portable antiquities" scheme based for the most part in museums. Archaeology is being seen by broad swathes of the public merely as "digging up old things". 

Why cannot LuckyOrange distinguish between loose objects (evidence) and the archaeological context ("archaeology") they lie in and form part of? Do the PAS effectively teach these things to metal detectorists? If not, why not?

Killing rare butterflies caught in the wild and sticking them in rows on pins in cases [with or without labels giving findspots] is "saving" them from rotting ("being lost") in the wet grass when they die. But, self-evidently, that is not "preservation" is it?

Because even if "findspots" are given, that mere fact produces no information about ecosystem they were in at time of death, and fact that butterflies are being killed there is damaging, not preserving, that ecosystem. No? This is about resource conservation. 
(I gave a link to this 2015 article:, 'Wings of Desire: Why the hobby of Butterfly collecting is overLepidoptery has changed with technology replacing the killing jar)

But this is exactly what happens when PAS archaeologists (paid from the public purse) neglect their public duty to help inform society of what archaeology is all about and how it is done and why ("encourages best practice by finders/landowners and archaeologists/museums [...] raises awareness of the importance of recording archaeological finds in their context" not much of that going on, is there? How can they do better?)


Hougenai said...

Well, well is this a case where the PAS database could actually be of some use??(wash my mouth)

It would be an interesting exercise to compare all records of bronze axes to give us an idea of the scale of plough damage in the real world of detecting. (If trusting recorders to identify when/how the damage occurred). Or rather in the world of voluntary recording.
(I gave up, due to a lack of time, after an advanced search for both 'bronze axe' and 'bronze axe, plough damage' turned up no results. A simple search produce 3,500 odd bronze axes, adding 'plough damage' produced an odd list of very mixed artefacts starting with a couple of stone objects). In fairness, i don't use the database a lot and may have missed a trick.

A flat axe did catch my eye and the detail did identify 'rolling in the ploughsoil' as the source of some deep scrapes in the patina. Oddly it hadn't fallen into a million pieces at the mere sight of a plough as some would have us believe.

The irony that detectorists may have provided the data to rubbish one of their longstanding claims is not missed here.

Paul Barford said...

The PAS's search engine is crap and has been crap for coming up to two decades, in which time, you'd think they'd have upgraded it. But of course if you ask a FLO about it they will say "you don't understand, you're doing it wrong" - without explaining what to do to do it right. And if you cant do it, what about my Mum, who pays for the PAS too? .

Waste of time.

But yes, the total number of the million records in which the phrase "plough damage" occurs is... 2,156... in other words 0.25% that means 99.75% of all objects allegedly "saved" in the PAS records by detectorists and others are NOT plough-damaged enough for that to be mentioned.


gives 28 examples ... and don't forget to see how they map out... FLO bias there I suspect.

gives 28 examples, look how they map out

Hougenai said...

Thanks Paul.
They make an interesting read in terms of 'Plough damage'.
It's a bit of a catch all term usually preceded by 'probably'and even in those few examples there is variation in the way various post depositional scratches, gouges and chips are identified and attributed as (probable)plough damage.

Somehow i have a feeling that there won't be a PAS conference speaker or session on 'The Plough-damage myth debunked'.

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